Rebels forward Zablocki a virtual lock to be drafted
The Red Deer Rebels’ Jan. 10 acquisition of Lane Zablocki was a positive move for both the team and the player.
The Wetaskiwin native produced nine goals and 25 points in 33 games with the Regina Pats during the first half of the 2016-17 WHL campaign, then sniped 19 goals and recorded 29 points in 31 regular-season outings with the Rebels.
He carried that momentum into the playoffs, potting six goals and adding two assists during the Rebels’ seven-game, opening-round series loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
As a result, his Central Scouting Bureau mid-term ranking of 70th among North American skaters eligible for the NHL entry draft in Chicago Friday and Saturday improved to 52 in the final rankings.
Zablocki, then, will almost certainly be drafted first among the two to three Rebels who will be selected. Fellow right winger Austin Pratt is ranked 103rd by Central Scouting heading into the draft, while defenceman Carson Sass is not ranked by CSB but there is some speculation that he could be picked.
Zablocki, according to Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter, has drawn the interest of several NHL teams. What is clear is that he possesses several of the traits common to successful pro players.
“He has offensive abilities and has a good shot,” said Sutter. “He also goes into the tough areas and is a responsible player.
“Certainly there’s a lot of interest in him and we’ll just see where it goes. From what we’re hearing and depending on what teams want, he’ll probably be drafted near the end of the second round or the first part of the third. But you never know how things can unfold.”
Zablocki, who carries 190 pounds on his six-foot frame, tied for third in the bench press event of the recent NHL Scouting Combine.
Unlike Zablocki, Pratt’s Central Scouting status dipped in the second half of the season. He dropped from 83rd (mid term) to 103rd (final rankings).
“There was lot of interest in Pratter earlier, but I thought his second half of the year wasn’t as good as it needed to be and that probably hurt him a bit going into the draft,” said Sutter.
Pratt scored 16 goals and collected 34 points in 70 regular-season games but he was nearly invisible in the playoffs, held pointless with a minus-4 plus/minus ranking.
Still, six-foot-three, 205-pound forwards with decent mobility and hands are always attractive to pro teams.
“Who knows? As the draft goes on you never know what’s going to happen,” said Sutter.
Sass is a longshot in regard to the draft but might find a suitor in the late rounds.
“He was a warrior for us last season, just the way he played,” said Sutter. “He was very responsible and as a 17-year-old first-year player in the league I thought he did an outstanding job.
“He was one of our top penalty killers and he contributed when he got the opportunity to go on the power play.”
Sass, at six-foot and 182 pounds, scored five goals — including three on the power play — and added 11 assists during the regular season.
Sutter and Rebels assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter considered attending the draft in order to better prepare for next Wednesday’s CHL import draft, but decided against it.
“We decided that Shaun had done a lot of homework (in regard to the Rebels’ eventual selection) and going there (Chicago) wasn’t going to make a whole lot of difference,” said the Rebels boss.